Their Mission: Telling Untold Stories

Dr Paola Ehrmantraut and Dr Kari Zimmerman
Dr Paola Ehrmantraut and Dr Kari Zimmerman

St. Thomas professors Kari Zimmerman and Paola Ehrmantraut created Walking Together, a digital research hub studying immigration, migration and displacement in Minnesota. 

Zimmerman, an associate history professor, and Ehrmantraut, a language professor, started the website, which is currently focused on telling Latino stories. The research project is funded by a grant through the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas. 

Student researcher Freddy Flores-Deominquez, a sophomore at the Dougherty Family College, designed and now produces stories for the website, which launched in August 2021. 

The leaders of Walking Together know the importance of having tough conversations and the significance of sharing the untold stories of immigrants with the public. The website consists of Latinx news that brings attention to displacement issues faced by underrepresented communities. 

They talked more about their research in the interview below. 

How does the history department at St. Thomas bring diversity and culture? 

Zimmerman: “One of the main goals of historians is to think about how the past informs the present. … History provides that foundation and then our research as scholars — they’re often in dialogue with issues of diversity and inclusion and global concerns.” 

How does Walking Together bring diversity and culture on campus? 

Flores-Deominquez: “The university is starting to fund these initiatives. I think our research project is sort of in that same direction where we’re trying to disrupt and make people more aware and humanizing immigrant stories and immigrant people. One of the main things that keeps me on this team is continuing to humanize my people and the people I grew  up around. ” 

Zimmerman: “Especially in the past few years, given the circumstances of the Twin Cities, (we) have really started to learn about antiracism efforts and ways that our privilege might be perpetuating systems without our knowledge. And I think all of us are very eager to work on dismantling those systems, but at the same time, that’s hard.” 

What has been your biggest accomplishment with Walking Together and what are you most looking forward to? 

Ehrmantraut: “I know we’re doing a lot of content right now. So I’m excited to see what’s gonna happen next. You know, it’s built in a way that things can move around and change and evolve and grow so well. It’s organic, so we don’t have a set, exact plan of how this is going to go. Because of that we give room for things to move freely and it works.” 

What is currently being done and what more can be done to improve diversity and culture on campus? 

Ehrmantraut: “I think we have a lot of good initiatives that have started and maybe just strengthening the continuity of some of those ideas, I think that would make us stronger in that area. I see a lot of good initiatives that tend to be like one-off conversations or one workshop, but I would like to see more continuity. We’re just scratching the surface, kind of getting started and figuring this out. I would like to see a deeper commitment to those initiatives. I think that would be great. I think we are somewhat on the right track.” 

This story was produced with the University of St .Thomas Marketing, Insights & Communications team. Student profiled St. Thomas changemakers involved with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at the university at Winter News Team.

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